Hoping for climate change to reverse, e-waste to reduce, and the economy to go circular is all well and good, but what actions can we all take today—right now—that will help direct us toward this eventuality? And, more importantly, what are the consequences if we don’t re-orient ourselves thusly?
In California there lives a woman who has proven that living with zero waste can be done. Bea Johnson’s lifestyle might be extreme, but her 5 steps to get there are not. In fact, in choosing the five steps—in order—of: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (let’s call it Return) for your IT Assets, will allow you to significantly reduce your carbon footprint as an individual and as a business.
Why aim for zero?
Businesses are always looking at ways of curbing expenses, cutting costs, and becoming more efficient. The zero-waste lifestyle is no different. And though current methods of recycling are not able to reclaim all the pieces and parts of our devices, returning IT assets to the OEM or to an e-Steward certified recycler will land you far closer to the goose-egg we’re looking for.
Truly zeroing out your waste as a goal changes how you approach consuming products in the first place. Reject the purchase in preference of reuse, stop trashing useful IT assets simply because your business can’t use it anymore, and process all your company’s e-waste with an e-Steward certified partner.
What’s stopping us now?
Currently, there are two factors that keep us so far from sustainable with our consumption—aside from just living in a consumer culture. Bias and opportunity. Bias comes from the fact that tech companies are designing products to be “disposable.” It’s called design obsolescence and it is hard-wired into our thinking about IT assets, causing us to recycle perfectly usable devices.
Opportunity is the second factor. There are more ways to ineffectively handle your IT assets than there are good. New devices are a click away and end-of-life devices will gladly be “handled” by shady recyclers—why not go through IT assets like bottled water?
But, like single-use plastics, that isn’t sustainable OR efficient. Your current IT assets still have so much left to give. If not to your company, then to your employees, or certainly to your community.
Close to zero is better than where we are now
Zero waste is a growing movement where the goal is to produce as little waste as humanly possible. Proponents of this movement have been able to fit their yearly—yes, yearly—waste into a mason jar.
But the goal, in reality, is to be more responsible with how we consume as a culture. When framed as efficiency, it doesn’t seem so radical and you can see how doing more with less improves finances, changes energy consumption, and even revolutionizes your relationship to your community.
To be sure, as more people join the zero-waste movement, innovations and technological augmentation is bound to happen—apps shall be created. At that point the real change will begin, and businesses will be clamoring to join in. Only they’ll probably call it something clever like how Six Sigma renamed quality control.